Benayoun backs misfiring Torres
Yossi Benayoun has backed misfiring and much-maligned Chelsea striker Fernando Torres to rediscover his best form.
Torres now has one goal in 13 matches after last night's Europa League last-32 first leg 1-0 win at Sparta Prague, during which the World Cup winner missed opportunities and had to endure the anger of visiting fans.
While many Blues fans' support of Torres has disappeared, Benayoun, like interim Chelsea boss Rafael Benitez, has backed his former Liverpool colleague, whose recent misery was summed up by a second-half shot against Sparta which was sliced out for a throw-in.
"You can understand it is not easy, from being the top striker at Liverpool - he was unbelievable, you gave him the ball and you knew he would score," Benayoun said.
"But he had a bad time in the beginning at Chelsea. When he came in, he was on the bench, then on the pitch.
"He did not get the confidence when he came in. And with the £50million above his head, it is not easy for any player.
"This season is the first time that he has been given the chance to be number one, because (Didier) Drogba was here, so there was competition.
"This is the first year the club gave him 100 per cent confidence he needs to be number one."
"This is the first year the club gave him 100 per cent confidence he needs to be number one." - Yossi Benayoun
In three-and-a-half years at Liverpool, after being signed from Atletico Madrid by Benitez for a fee of £20m, Torres scored 81 goals in 142 matches before moving to Stamford Bridge on the final day of the 2011 winter transfer window for £50m on a five-and-a-half-year deal.
There have been glimpses of his capabilities at Chelsea, but not consistently. He has scored 25 goals in 134 appearances, 15 of them this season.
Torres netted seven times in six games in December, but his only goal since was the equaliser which forced Sunday's FA Cup fourth-round replay with Brentford.
Benitez has praised Torres' work-rate and attributed his barren streak to the role he has to perform as a lone striker, but the Spain international could be removed from the firing line for Sunday's encounter, with Demba Ba and Victor Moses available.
Whether or not Torres plays, Benayoun expects the striker to soon return to his best.
"I believe in him 100 per cent," Benayoun said. "For me, he is still one of the best strikers in the world.
"You do not change so quick from being the best player, one of the best in the world, to a player that some people say is not good enough for Chelsea.
"He has had good spells, bad spells, and has 15 or 16 goals already. That is not bad, but hopefully he will finish with 25.
"He just needs to believe in himself. It would be good to get his confidence back and be his old self.
"Against Wigan he played well, but the goal did not come. The keeper made two or three great saves and if he scores, it changes everything and his confidence comes back.
"Hopefully he will get a few more soon and you will see the real Fernando Torres."
"For me, he is still one of the best strikers in the world." - Yossi Benayoun
Like Torres, Benayoun has struggled to reach the same heights since moving from Anfield to west London.
The Israel international had a spell on loan at Arsenal last season and West Ham during the first half of this campaign, the latter marred by a knee injury which limited him to six appearances.
The temporary moves were his decision, to get match action, and he has now made three substitute appearances since returning to Chelsea, where he is under contract until the end of the season.
Benayoun said: "I knew I would come back, but I was injured, so it took me a while to get fit. Now hopefully I will get more opportunities.
"For any opportunity I get, I will do my best, if he (Benitez) needs me for a few minutes or more, I will do what I can."